libxlsxwriter
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Getting Started with libxlsxwriter

Table of Contents

Here are some instructions to get you up and running with the libxlsxwriter library on different OSes.

Installation on Linux

Quick-start on Linux

If you prefer to assemble Ikea furniture first and only read the instructions when you have parts left over then the following minimal set of commands should get you up and running on a Debian like system:

sudo apt-get install -y zlib1g-dev
git clone https://github.com/jmcnamara/libxlsxwriter.git
cd libxlsxwriter
make
sudo make install

If you read instructions first and then assemble the furniture you will know how to proceed.

Install the dependencies

The only dependency (apart from testing dependencies) is Zlib version >= 1.2.8.

The easiest way to install zlib is from the source code:

curl -O -L  http://www.zlib.net/zlib-1.2.11.tar.gz
tar zxf zlib-1.2.11.tar.gz
cd zlib-1.2.11

./configure
make

sudo make install

Alternatively, you can use your OS packager to install the zlib development libraries. For example:

sudo apt-get install -y zlib1g-dev

However, you need to ensure that the version installed is >= 1.2.8 or you will get zlib related compilation issues.

Get the source code via Git

Clone the libxlsxwriter source code repository from GitHub as follows:

git clone https://github.com/jmcnamara/libxlsxwriter.git
# Or use your preferred protocol instead of https.

Get the source code as a tarball

If you prefer you can get a tarball of the latest code as follows:

curl -O -L http://github.com/jmcnamara/libxlsxwriter/archive/master.tar.gz

Build the source code

Build the source code as follows:

cd libxlsxwriter
make

This will create a static and dynamic library in the local ./lib directory:

ls lib
libxlsxwriter.a     libxlsxwriter.so

To see a verbose summary of the compilation steps use V=1:

make V=1

Try an example

If there weren't any warnings or errors in the previous step (and there shouldn't have been) then you can build the programs in the examples directory and try one of them out:

make examples
./examples/hello

This will create a hello_world.xlsx file in your current directory. Open the file in a spreadsheet application. The output should look like this:

hello01.png

There is a large range of tests that you can run but they have some additional dependencies. If you are interested see Running the Test Suite.

Install the library

Libxlsxwriter supports a simplified installation scheme for a static and dynamic/shared library and header files.

sudo make install

The files are installed to /usr/local by default but this can be overridden by using the INSTALL_DIR environmental variable:

make install INSTALL_DIR=/usr/third_party

This installation method isn't fool proof but if it fails on your system you will probably know exactly how to fix it or have no idea how to fix it. I'm hoping for the former.

Using the library

Using you favourite editor create a file like the following called myexcel.c:

#include "xlsxwriter.h"
int main() {
lxw_workbook *workbook = workbook_new("myexcel.xlsx");
lxw_worksheet *worksheet = workbook_add_worksheet(workbook, NULL);
int row = 0;
int col = 0;
worksheet_write_string(worksheet, row, col, "Hello me!", NULL);
return workbook_close(workbook);
}

If you executed the "make install" command in the previous section then you should be able to compile the program as follows:

cc myexcel.c -o myexcel -lxlsxwriter

In some environments, or if you changed the INSTALL_DIR location, you may have to provide explicit include and lib paths:

cc myexcel.c -o myexcel -I/usr/local/include -L/usr/local/lib -lxlsxwriter

This will create an executable that you can run to generate an Excel spreadsheet:

./myexcel
xdg-open myexcel.xlsx

If the installation didn't work for you then you can link against the static library you created in the "Build the source code" step:

cc myexcel.c -o myexcel -I /path/to/libxlsxwriter/include \
                           /path/to/libxlsxwriter/lib/libxlsxwriter.a -lz

Installation on FreeBSD and OpenBSD

Installation on FreeBSD and OpenBSD is mainly the same as on Linux, see above, with the differences outlined below.

Both FreeBSD and OpenBSD come with the zlib development libraries pre-installed so there are no additional dependencies. However, if you have any issues then follow the instructions to install zlib.

Get the source code via Git or get the source code as a tarball as shown above then build the source code as follows using gmake (not make):

cd libxlsxwriter
gmake

Then follow the instructions in the Linux section to install the library and use the library.

Installation on macOS and iOS

The instructions for installing on Linux, shown above, will also work on macOS.

To install for Xcode and iOS use the Cocoa Pods method shown in the next section.

On macOS you can also use brew/homebrew, see below.

Install using Cocoa Pods for Xcode

For iOS and macOS projects in Xcode you can install libxlsxwriter using CocoaPods.

For a sample Xcode project that uses the libxlsxwriter cocoapod for iOS and macOS with Objective-C and Swift see libxlsxwriter Cocoa Examples, provided by Ludovico Rossi.

Installation on macOS with homebrew

On macOS you can also use brew/homebrew:

brew install libxlsxwriter

Once installed you can compile and run a libxlsxwriter program as follows:

cc myexcel.c -o myexcel -I/usr/local/include -L/usr/local/lib -lxlsxwriter
./myexcel

Install using CMake

Libxlsxwriter also supports CMake for building and installing the library, as follows:

cmake $SOURCE_DIR $FLAGS

For example:

cd cmake
cmake ..
make
make install

CMake Flags

Certain build features can be controlled by passing flags to Cmake. For example:

cd cmake
cmake .. -DBUILD_TESTS=ON
make

# Run the unit tests.
./xlsxwriter_unit

Some of the Libxlsxwriter specific flags are:

CMake Options

CMake sets debug and release builds with the CMAKE_BUILD_TYPE option. To build in release mode, pass -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release during configuration.

CMake Generators

CMake also supports custom build generators, such as Makefiles, Ninja, Visual Studio, and Xcode. For example, to generate a Visual Studio solution, configure with:

cmake .. -G "Visual Studio 14 2015 Win64"

For more information on using generators see: cmake-generators.

Cmake for Microsoft Visual Studio

You can also use Cmake to build a Microsoft Visual Studio (although see also the next section on using vcpkg which is less manual).

Open a Windows CMD or Command Window and set up your MSVC environment, if required.

Then create a work directory and and an install directory that the include and library files will be installed to. Set the follow variables to point to the directories:

set    WORK_DIR=C:/Users/Username/tmp
set INSTALL_DIR=C:/Users/Username/tmp/install_dir

Build the Zlib library:

cd %WORK_DIR%

git clone https://github.com/madler/zlib.git
cd zlib
mkdir build
cd    build

cmake .. -G "Visual Studio 14 Win64" -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX:PATH="%INSTALL_DIR%/zlib"

cmake --build . --config Release --target install

Build the libxlsxwriter library:

cd %WORK_DIR%

git clone https://github.com/jmcnamara/libxlsxwriter.git
cd libxlsxwriter
mkdir build
cd    build

cmake .. -G "Visual Studio 14 Win64" -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX:PATH="%INSTALL_DIR%/libxlsxwriter" -DZLIB_ROOT:STRING="%INSTALL_DIR%/zlib"

cmake --build . --config Release --target install

Create a new Win32 Console (or other C/C++) application in Visual Studio:

File
  -> New
    -> Project

Visual C++
  -> Win32
    -> Win32 Console Application

Change the ARCH in the main Dialog to "x64" (or to match the parameter to cmake).

Replace the empty main with a libxlsxwriter example from the distro. Make sure to include "stdafx.h" and "xlsxwriter.h":

#include "stdafx.h"
#include "xlsxwriter.h"
int main() {
lxw_workbook *workbook = workbook_new("hello_world.xlsx");
lxw_worksheet *worksheet = workbook_add_worksheet(workbook, NULL);
worksheet_write_string(worksheet, 0, 0, "Hello", NULL);
worksheet_write_number(worksheet, 1, 0, 123, NULL);
workbook_close(workbook);
return 0;
}

Edit the application properties:

Project
  -> ConsoleApplication Properties

Set the libxlsxwriter include path to match the path used above:

Configuration Properties
  -> C/C++
    -> General
      -> Additional Include Directories

Set it to the following (or similar path used above):

C:\Users\Username\tmp\install_dir\libxlsxwriter\include

Set the linker directories to match the path created above:

Configuration Properties
  -> Linker
    -> General
      -> Additional Library Directories

Add the following (or similar paths used above):

C:\Users\Username\tmp\install_dir\libxlsxwriter\lib\x64\Release
C:\Users\Username\tmp\install_dir\zlib\lib

Set the linker additional libraries to match the zlib and xlsxwriter libs created above:

Configuration Properties
  -> Linker
     -> Input
        -> Additional Dependencies

Add the following:

xlsxwriter.lib
zlib.lib

Build the solution and run the output executable. It should create a hello_world.xlsx file in the same directory you ran it from.

Using libxlsxwriter in Microsoft Visual Studio via vcpkg

A convenient way to get the latest release version of libxlsxwriter and integrate it into your Visual Studio build environment is to use the vcpkg tool. This uses the CMake build system shown in the previous section but with less user interaction. From the vcpkg docs:

"vcpkg" is a command-line package manager that greatly simplifies the acquisition and installation of third-party libraries on Windows, Linux and MacOS. If your project uses third-party libraries, we recommend that you use vcpkg to install them. vcpkg supports both open-source and proprietary libraries. All libraries in the vcpkg Windows catalog have been tested for compatibility with Visual Studio 2015, Visual Studio 2017, and Visual Studio 2019.

Install vcpkg and libxlsxwriter as follows in Windows CMD or Powershell:

> git clone https://github.com/microsoft/vcpkg.git
> bootstrap-vcpkg.bat
> vcpkg install libxlsxwriter

You should then see libxlsxwriter installed as follows (note that the required zlib dependency has also been installed):

> vcpkg list
libxlsxwriter:x86-windows  0.8.6-1   Libxlsxwriter is a C library that ...
zlib:x86-windows           1.2.11-5  A compression library

You can also install libxlsxwriter for other build targets like x64

> vcpkg install libxlsxwriter:x64-windows

> vcpkg list
libxlsxwriter:x64-windows  0.8.6-1   Libxlsxwriter is a C library that ...
libxlsxwriter:x86-windows  0.8.6-1   Libxlsxwriter is a C library that ...
zlib:x64-windows           1.2.11-5  A compression library
zlib:x86-windows           1.2.11-5  A compression library

To use libxlsxwriter from within Visual Studio you can "integrate" it into your environment:

> vcpkg integrate install
Applied user-wide integration for this vcpkg root.

All MSBuild C projects can now include libxlsxwriter directly. Linking will also be handled automatically. For example, create a new Win32 Console (or other C/C++) application in Visual Studio:

File
  -> New
    -> Project

Visual C++
  -> Win32
    -> Win32 Console Application

Replace the empty main with a libxlsxwriter example from the distro. Make sure to include "stdafx.h" and "xlsxwriter.h":

#include "stdafx.h"
#include "xlsxwriter.h"
int main() {
lxw_workbook *workbook = workbook_new("hello_world.xlsx");
lxw_worksheet *worksheet = workbook_add_worksheet(workbook, NULL);
worksheet_write_string(worksheet, 0, 0, "Hello", NULL);
worksheet_write_number(worksheet, 1, 0, 123, NULL);
workbook_close(workbook);
return 0;
}

Change the target to "Release" and the architecture to "x86" (or whatever you installed above). You can now "Build Solution". The resulting executable will be put in the output directory with the required "xlsxwriter.dll" and "zlib1.dll" files.

Specifying a TEMP directory for libxlsxwriter

The libxlsxwriter library creates temporary files in the system TEMP directory during assembly of an xlsx file. On Windows this directory may not be writeable by a libxlsxwriter application (although it will try several TEMP locations before returning an error). To work around this you can set the tmpdir parameter of the lxw_workbook_options struct and pass it to workbook_new_opt():

lxw_workbook_options options = {.constant_memory = LXW_FALSE,
.tmpdir = "C:\\Temp"};
lxw_workbook *workbook = workbook_new_opt("filename.xlsx", &options);

This can also be used on Unix systems where the TEMP directory isn't writeable.

The TEMP file handling with optional temporary directory support is provided by the Tmpfileplus library which is included in the source tree. If you wish to use the standard library tmpfile() function instead you can compile without tmpfileplus as follows:

make USE_STANDARD_TMPFILE=1
Note
When using the the standard library tmpfile() the tmpdir parameter, shown above, is ignored.

Installation on Windows using Mingw-w64 and MSYS2

The libxlsxwriter library can also be compiled on Windows using the Mingw-w64 "Minimalist GNU for Windows" toolchain. These tools can be run from the Windows cmd.exe but it is recommended to use the MSYS2 "Minimal System" Bourne Shell.

Here are some instructions on how to compile libxlsxwriter with Mingw-w64 and MSYS2:

# Install MSYS2 64 or 32 bit from http://msys2.github.io/

# Install the dev tools for libxlsxwriter.
pacman -S git gcc make zlib-devel

# Clone and build libxlsxwriter.
git clone https://github.com/jmcnamara/libxlsxwriter.git
cd libxlsxwriter/
make

After compilation you can follow the instructions in the Install the library and Using the library sections above. When using the library you may also need to link against the zlib library using -lz:

gcc myexcel.c -o myexcel -lxlsxwriter -lz

It is also possible to use Cygwin and the older MinGW and MSYS. Libxlsxwriter has been confirmed to compile and work in all of these environments.

See also Specifying a TEMP directory for libxlsxwriter.

Linking against system minizip

Libxlsxwriter uses the minizip component of Zlib to create the xlsx zip file container. The source files for minizip are included in the src tree of libxlsxwriter and are statically linked by default.

If you have a lminizip library already installed on your system and prefer to dynamically link against that you can use the following compilation option:

make USE_SYSTEM_MINIZIP=1

Compiling on Big Endian Architecture

Libxlsxwriter can be compiled on a big endian system as follows:

make USE_BIG_ENDIAN=1

Next steps

If you got libxlsxwriter built and working successfully then the next sections will look at how to create some more in-depth examples.

Next: Tutorial 1: Create a simple XLSX file